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Protesters Should Not Stop Vieques Vote - Clinton

February 16, 2000
Copyright © 2000 REUTERS LTD. All Rights Reserved.

WASHINGTON, Feb 16 (Reuters) - President Bill Clinton said on Wednesday protesters at a U.S. Navy bombing range on the island of Vieques off Puerto Rico should not be allowed to prevent the island's residents from deciding the future of the range.

"The people of Vieques should decide this," Clinton said in response to questions at a White House news conference.

"And, just as I don't think the Pentagon should impose it on them, I don't think the demonstrators should stop them from having a vote either. I think they ought to be able to make a judgment."

Clinton stopped short of saying if he would support any move by federal authorities to oust squatters from the controversial range but voiced support for last month's agreement between U.S. and Puerto Rican officials.



Navy To Send Officer To Lobby Vieques Voters

by Dale Eisman

February 11, 2000
Copyright © 2000 THE VIRGINIA-PILOT AND THE LEDGER-STAR. All Rights Reserved.

The Navy's top admiral told Congress on Thursday that he'll dispatch a flag officer to Puerto Rico within the next few days to begin efforts "to win the hearts and minds" of voters on Vieques Island, home of a besieged and - according to the Navy - critically needed bombing range.

Adm. Jay L. Johnson, the chief of naval operations, also promised the House Armed Services Committee that the Navy is determined to be a better neighbor to Vieques' 9,300 residents. He acknowledged that the service has moved too slowly to repair damage from what many Viequens see as years of indifference to the range's impact on their island.

"You need to start today, admiral, if you want to keep that range," Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., lectured Johnson. "And you've gotta keep that range."

The service hopes to win the right to again use live ammunition on the range but must persuade Vieques voters to approve that move in a referendum.

Despite Johnson's promise Thursday of quick action to improve relations, other Navy officials said later that no decision has been made about who will take the Vieques assignment and when that officer will report.

Vieques Puerto Ricans To Vote Down US Navy Training - Poll

February 10, 2000
All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP)--Residents on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques will vote overwhelmingly to expel the U.S. Navy from a controversial bombing range in an upcoming referendum, said a poll published Thursday.

About 84% of those polled said they would choose to evict the military.

Only 4% wanted the Navy to continue exercises in exchange for $50 million in aid, under a deal made by President Bill Clinton. The rest said they wouldn't vote or would choose "none of the above."

The house-to-house survey of 300 of the island's 9,400 residents was carried out Feb. 3-5 and commissioned by El Nuevo Dia newspaper. It has a 4% margin of error.

Clinton said he would order the Navy to leave by May 1, 2003, if Vieques residents want that. Meanwhile, training will continue with dummy bombs.

About 55% of those polled said they would be satisfied to see the Navy leave in three years. Twenty-nine percent wanted the military to leave immediately.

The poll showed 77% of residents were unsatisfied with Gov. Pedro Rossello's negotiations with the White House. About 95% said they should have been consulted and 89% said Rossello backed down from his pledge to allow "not one more bullet" in Vieques .

About 79% said they wanted the referendum held before exercises resume as expected in March with the arrival of the USS George Washington aircraft carrier and its battle group of ships and submarines.

The poll showed widespread approval for Independence Party leader Ruben Berrios, who has camped out on the bombing range since May. About 25% of those polled said they would vote for Berrios for governor in November elections, the highest percentage ever for an Independence Party candidate.

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